Thursday, 2 December 2010

St. Nicholas, Milton-juxta-Canterbury

     "Without a church I think a place lacks its heart and identity," observed John Betjeman.  Here we find a church without a "place", with no village or hamlet appreciably close-by.  Flanked on one side by a farm, and on the other by a gravel quarry with only sheep to keep it company, this dear little church appeals to my predilection for isolated settings, standing all alone like a symbolic "Rock of Ages" against the irrepressible tide of the 20th century.  Not having - so far as I am aware - any notable architectural merits or historical associations, St. Nicholas never rates a mention in most celebrated publications, and only qualifies for five lines in Newman's "Buildings of England."  However, exercising my usual propensity for backing the underdog I include it here, as I feel that it probably serves better than most to illustrate the sheer diversity of Kent's medieval country churches and, not least, because I like it.

     This simple little flint church with limestone dressings has been described as one of the smallest in England, consisting only of a nave and lower chancel, west bell-gable and, in all, totalling only 45 feet in length.  It is medieval in origin (traces of a medieval village having been found in the fields to the north), but was completely rebuilt in 1829 by a local benefactor, John Bell, as a memorial to his daughter and a mausoleum for his family.  It is, perhaps, interesting to note that Syms has this building dedicated to St. John in his "Kent Country Churches."  While I wouldn't expect him to lose any sleep over any thoughts I may have on the matter, I am sure he would understand my opting for Newman's version.  As Syms himself said, "I now regard John Newman as infallible and all-encompassing in the field of Kent."

     My son-in-law and I came here to photograph this bantam of a building on a stiflingly hot summer's day.  Having to leave the car on the road to the east of the church, we humped our equipment - by virtue of rights of way - across privately owned land and, not finding an official entrance, had to finally climb a fence to gain access to the paddock in which it is situated.  It seemed as if we were on private ground but nobody troubled us while we were there.

     I used a golden filter to add a warm glow to the colours, and a graduated light-violet to enhance the clear blue sky.  From a compositional standpoint I would have liked the sheep on the far right of the picture to have been a little nearer the bottom of the frame, but sheep rarely, if ever, do what you want them to.  I relished our 'safari' here, and although this little church is of modest proportions compared to the majority of its contemporaries, for me it is perfect proof that, sometimes, "less is more."


  1. It is a wonderful little church and you described it very well so that one can get a better sense of it. Have you ever visited the little church on Brownesy Island, in the harbour at Poole? It is a wonderful little church also.

  2. Hi Paul.

    No I haven't. I didn't know there was one there. I have only photographed the island from the mainland.
    Kind regards,